"In the Midst of a Loneliness":
The Architectural History of the Salinas Missions
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Only a general description of the stabilization of the ruins of Abó can be considered here. For most of the work up to National Park Service participation beginning in 1980, the level of recording was too low to plot changes precisely. After 1980, stabilization records are usually quite detailed, but only elevation drawings of individual wall surfaces could present the work at that level of detail. Instead, this chapter will describe the projects in terms of the kind of work done and the general area affected.

First Stabilization, 1938-1940

During 1938, Joseph Toulouse began stabilizing of the surviving ruins of Abó in conjunction with his archeology. The effort was necessary to prevent further collapse of the high-standing walls, and to preserve the lower walls uncovered during excavation. [1]

Toulouse started construction on scaffolding along the west side of the west wall of the nave on June 28. On July 6 his crew began work on the scaffolding against the east side of the west wall. On the same day, the work crews inserted new round lintel beams in the belltower passageway above the surviving floor beams.

The carpenters completed the scaffolding on July 18, and the stabilization crews began intensive masonry work. The masons used a mortar containing portland cement, but the actual mix is not known. They filled all the holes and reconstructed the veneer of the walls where stone had fallen out. On the east face of the west wall, Toulouse had the masons fill the lower of the two channels left by the burning out of the bond beams under the vigas, because he could not replace both beams securely enough that they would stay in place. The bond beam sockets on the west face were also filled, except for a short section of narrow beam placed in the opening below the viga socket visible from the west. On the wall top, the crew built up the wall adjacent to the northern buttress, recreating the south side and top of the viga socket against the east side of the buttress. Toulouse removed the wooden canal that formed a drain through the wall at the base of the notch between the two surviving crenels, and filled in most of the crenelations with new stone work, apparently under the impression that the notches were the result of stone collapse.

Toulouse's crew finished the west wall of the nave by the second week of August, and began moving the scaffolding to enclose the "tower," the surviving high section of wall at the west side of the clerestory. During this time they cut beams in the nearby National Forest to be used to refill the beam sockets on the north face of the side chapel wall.

The scaffolding was in place by August 19, and the masons began work on the north face of the wall. They rebuilt the west wall of the side chapel in a long rising curve to act as a buttress against the north side of the "tower," and repaired the edges and faces of the corner structures themselves.

On October 3 the crew began jacking the beams into place. Toulouse replaced the ends of the six beams and corbels of the lower clerestory vigas, but did not put in replacements for the pair of bond beams beneath the clerestory beams, or for the upper clerestory vigas and corbels. He replaced the facing of virtually the entire north side of the wall above the socket for the viga that supported the balcony, and in the process filled in the upper balustrade socket. Toulouse made the replacement clerestory beams thin enough that the facing of the side chapel wall continued across them, so that they were sealed within the facing stone as seen from the north rather than exposed as they are now. The last beams were placed on October 6. The masons finished the top of the side chapel wall, and capped the walls with cement on October 26. In the process of finishing and capping, they obscured the outlines of the crenels along the wall top in this area. The final height of the "tower" was 42 feet 10 inches to the thin concrete capping placed by Toulouse. This was within a few inches of the actual finished height of the wall as completed in ca. 1651--the estimated full height is about 43 feet to the tops of the crenels.

Meanwhile, in late September the excavation crew relocated the baptistry. Its walls survived to about the height of the sill of the south window around most of the room. When the masons finished the "tower" on October 26, they moved the scaffolding to the south end of the wall and began to rebuild the walls of the baptistry at the same time. By November 21 the walls of the baptistry were to the height of the lintel of the doorway. Toulouse replaced the sill and frame of the south window of the baptistry with new wood, and built a similar window into the west wall--this window was his own creation, since the wall itself did not survive to enough height to have preserved any trace of the opening. The masons left the west wall flat above the lintel of the baptistry doorway, and a raw edge of original stonework up the south face of the south buttress. Further work in this area would be carried out in 1939.

In the 1938 season, Toulouse carried out stabilization work only on the west wall. The masonry replacement extended from the southwest corner of the nave and baptistry to the northwest corner of the west side chapel. None of the walls of the front terrace, porteria, choir stairs, east or north sides of the church, or any part of the convento received any stabilization treatment.

After returning to Abó in the second week of February, 1939, the work crews excavated and stabilized the rest of the mission. [2] The stabilization of the east wall of the church took priority over everything else. While the trenching of the convento was carried out in the last two weeks of February, 1939, masons quickly built up and capped the walls of the church. Most of the east wall stood only to a height of about 4 feet, including the walls of the convento rooms built against it. Only in the area of the southeast corner of the east side chapel did the wall survive above the mounds of rubble. Here, a portion of the corner and the east wall face at the south edge of the second-story entrance doorway to the balcony of the side chapel stood almost to the height of the top of the balcony entrance. The masons raised all the lower walls to a height of about 10 1/2 feet. In the process, they installed replacement beams as lintels for the two east doors of room 18, and as the stair edging for the choir stairs. Wall stabilization and replacement of the porteria beams and wall stabilization probably occurred at the same time.

In the area of the sacristy, the work crews cut and inserted new beams into the bond beam sockets beneath the corbel and viga sockets of the sacristy roof, and rebuilt much of the southeast corner of the side chapel above the height of about 4 feet. During the reconstruction of the corner, Toulouse erroneously restored the beam sockets of the corridor roof as rectangles of the same size as those in the sacristy. In reality they were round sockets about eight inches in diameter at the same height as the corbels under the sacristy beams. They had no bond beams beneath them. [3] The square beam sockets of the corridor, the bond beam beneath them, and the heights of the doorways into room 18 are guesses on Toulouse's part--no physical evidence for these details survived in 1938-39. [4]

The stabilization ended at the south edge of the doorway from the roof of the sacristy onto the balcony in the east side chapel. The masons restored the surviving lower south corner of this doorway incorrectly. The doorway originally had two masonry steps at the sill, so that the inner or west edge of the doorway was about two feet higher than the outer or east edge, just above the roof surface of the sacristy. Toulouse rebuilt the south portion of the sill as a peculiar series of surfaces that obscured the steps. Northward from this corner of the doorway, no stabilization was carried out in February.

The remainder of the church and all of the convento were stabilized during the period from the end of June to completion of the project in October, 1939. Toulouse conducted a final cleanup of scattered stone rubble from in front of the mission on

October 30 and 31, and turned over the keys to the first custodian of the park, Martin Campbell, on the afternoon of the 31st.

Figure 58. Abó in 1939. The interior of the church in the final stages of cleanup and stabilization. Replacement beams have been cut and set into the floor along the edges of the side chapel altar platforms and in front of the main altars. Stabilization of the side walls of the sanctuary near the side altars has not yet been carried out.
Courtesy Museum of New Mexico, # 6365.

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006